Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 7

“You’re crazy,” Luckman said, staring at him as if he were one of Jerry’s aphids. “Phone drug abuse? There’ll be narks in here within less time than—”

“That’s the best hope,” Barris continued smoothly, “and we can all take lie-detector tests to prove we didn’t know where it was or what it was on even put it there. It is there without our knowledge or permission. If you tell them that, Bob, they’ll exonerate you.” After a pause he admitted, “Eventually. When all the facts are known in open court.”

“But on the other hand,” Luckman said, “we’ve got our own stashes. We do know where they are and like that. Does this mean we’ve got to flush all our stashes? And suppose we miss some? Even one? Christ, this is awful!”

“There is no way out,” Arctor said. “They appear to have us.”

From one of the bedrooms Donna Hawthorne appeared, wearing a funny little knee-pants outfit, hair tumbled in disarray, her face puffy with sleep.

“I came on in,” she said, “like the note said. And I sat around for a while and then crashed. The note didn’t say when you’d be back. Why were you yelling? God, you’re uptight. You woke me.”

“You smoked a joint just now?” Arctor asked her. “Before you crashed?”

“Sure,” she said. “Otherwise I can’t ever sleep.”

“It’s Donna’s roach,” Luckman said. “Give it to her.”

My God, Bob Arctor thought. I was into that trip as much as they were. We all got into it together that deep. He shook himself, shuddered, and blinked. Knowing what I know, I still stepped across into that freaked-out paranoid space with them, viewed it as they viewed it—muddled, he thought. Murky again; the same murk that covers them covers me; the murk of this dreary dream world we float around in.

“You got us out of it,” he said to Donna.

“Out of what?” Donna said, puzzled and sleepy.

Not what I am, he thought, or what I know was supposed to take place here today, but this chick—she put my head back together, got all three of us out. A little black-haired chick wearing a funky outfit who I report on and am shucking and hopefully will be fucking … another shuck-and-fuck reality world, he thought, with this foxy girl the center of it: a national point that unwired us abruptly. Otherwise where would our heads finally have gone? We, all three of us, had gotten out of it entirely.

But not for the first time, he thought. Not even today.

“You shouldn’t leave your place unlocked like that,” Donna said. “You could get ripped off and it’d be your own fault. Even the giant capitalist insurance companies say that if you leave a door or window unlocked they won’t pay. That’s the main reason I came in when I saw the note. Somebody ought to be here if it’s unlocked like that.”

“How long have you been here?” Arctor asked her. Maybe she had aborted the bugging; maybe not. Probably not.

Donna consulted her twenty-dollar electric Timex wristwatch, which he had given her. “About thirty-eight minutes. Hey.” Her face brightened. “Bob, I got the wolf book with me—you want to look at it now? It’s got a lot of heavy shit in it, if you can dig it.”

“Life,” Barris said, as if to himself, “is only heavy and none else; there is only the one trip, all heavy. Heavy that leads to the grave. For everyone and everything.”

“Did I hear you say you’re going to sell your house?” Donna asked him. “Or was that—you know, me dreaming? I couldn’t tell; what I heard sounded spaced out and weird.”

“We’re all dreaming,” Arctor said. If the last to know he’s an addict is the addict, then maybe the last to know when a man means what he says is the man himself, he reflected. He wondered how much of the garbage that Donna had overheard he had seriously meant. He wondered how much of the insanity of the day—his insanity—had been real, or just induced as a contact lunacy, by the situation. Donna, always, was a pivot point of reality for him; for her this was the basic, natural question. He wished he could answer.


The next day Fred showed up in his scramble suit to hear about the bugging installation.

“The six holo-scanners now operating within the premises—six should be sufficient for now, we feel—transmit to a safe apartment down the street in the same block as Arctor’s house,” Hank explained, laying out a floor plan of Bob Arctor’s house on the metal table between them. It chilled Fred to see this, but not overly much. He picked the sheet up and studied the locations of the various scanners, in the various rooms, here and there so that everything fell under constant video scrutiny, as well as audio.

“So I do the playback at that apartment,” Fred said.

“We use it as a playback-monitor spot for about eight—on perhaps it’s nine, now—houses on apartments under scrutiny in that particular neighborhood. So you’ll be bumping into other undercover people doing their playbacks. Always have your suit on then.”

“I’ll be seen going into the apartment. It’s too close.”

“Guess so, but it’s an enormous complex, hundreds of units, and it’s the only one we’ve found electronically feasible. It’ll have to do, at least until we get legal eviction on another unit elsewhere. We’re working on it … two blocks farther away, where you’ll be less conspicuous. Week on so, I’d guess. If holo-scans could be transmitted with acceptable resolution along micro-relay cables and ITT lines like the older—”

“I’ll just use the shuck that I’m balling some broad in that complex, if Arctor on Luckman or any of those heads see me entering.” It really didn’t complicate matters that much; in fact, it would cut down his in-transit unpaid time, which was an important factor. He could easily truck on over to the safe apartment, do the scanning replay, determine what was relevant to his reports and what could be discarded, and then return very soon to—

To my own house, he thought. Arctor’s house. Up the street at the house I am Bob Arctor, the heavy doper suspect being scanned without his knowledge, and then every couple of days I find a pretext to slip down the street and into the apartment where I am Fred replaying miles and miles of tape to see what I did, and this whole business, he thought, depresses me. Except for the protection—and valuable personal information—it will give me.

Probably whoever’s hunting me will be caught by the holoscanners within the first week.

Realizing that, he felt mellow.

“Fine,” he said to Hank.

“So you see where the holos are placed. If they need servicing, you probably can do it yourself while you’re in Arctor’s house and no one else is around. You do get into his house, normally, don’t you?”

Well shit, Fred thought. If I do that, then I will be on the holo-replays. So when I turn them over to Hank I have to be, obviously, one of the individuals visible on them, and that cuts it down.

Up to now he had never actually laid it on Hank as to how he knew what he knew about his suspects; he himself as Fred the effective screening device carried the information. But now: audio— and holo-scanners, which did not automatically edit out as did his verbal report all identifying mention of himself. There would be Robert Arctor tinkering with the holos when they malfunctioned, his face mushrooming up to fill the screen. But on the other hand he would be the first to replay the storage tapes; he could still edit. Except that it would take time and care.

But edit out what? Edit out Arctor—entirely? Arctor was the suspect. Just Arctor when he went to fiddle with the holos.

“I’ll edit myself out,” he said. “So you won’t see me. As a matter of conventional protection.”

“Of course. You haven’t done this before?” Hank reached to show him a couple of pictures. “You use a bulk erasing device that wipes out any section where you as the informant appear. That’s the holos, of course; for audio, there’s no set policy followed. You won’t have any real trouble, though. We take it for granted that you’re one of the individuals in Arctor’s circle of friends who frequent that house—you are either Jim Barris or Ernie Luckman or Charles Freck or Donna Hawthorne—”

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